GDK 803: Distrust
Han Shuo, Aobashi, and Andre returned to the center area together. The crowd had their eyes gathered on Han Shuo. A constant stream of congratulations and compliments came from members of the three major family clans. Han Shuo handled the wave of praises calmly and modestly.
The three major patriarchs who started having a certain idea did not display too much excitement to Han Shuo on his victory. But Carmelita, Jiya, and Erebus who were friends to Han Shuo were rather open about it. They celebrated Han Shuo’s victory as though it was something unimaginable. Carmelita and Erebus would also console Aobashi who lost the battle.
Aobashi who had carefully considered this outcome as a real possibility before the fight had managed to find solace after Han Shuo and Andre consoled her during their return journey. She wasn’t upset or dejected as the crowd expected. On the contrary, it seemed as though the defeat had only ignited her fighting spirit. She made it known that she will get Han Shuo in the next centennial competition.
Wallace grew more concerned as he observed just how close Aobashi, Erebus, Carmelita, and Andre were becoming with Han Shuo. As the patriarch of the House of Sainte, he must think much further ahead than everyone else and therefore had much more to worry about than all those around him. Unknowingly, Wallace had started to take Han Shuo’s influence in the City very seriously.
After the first place was determined, it was time to determine the rest of the ranking. After rounds of battles, the new ranking of the strengths of the Divine Guard Chiefs was finally determined. From strongest to weakest: Han Shuo, Aobashi, Erebus, Ralph, Camilla, Batúk, Rugersey. In the duel between Erebus and Ralph, Ralph was defeated as he had exhausted most of his energy when battling Han Shuo. His defeat was rather surprising to the crowd.
Ralph was much more silent than usual after the new ranking was set. He had not spoken a single word but sweep his eyes up and down Han Shuo from time to time. No one knew what he was thinking.
Han Shuo had given Ralph a strong warning not to try anything silly and he was on guard against him. If Ralph wasn’t a henchman directly under Wallace, Han Shuo might even have eliminated this potential source of danger long ago. But Han Shuo knew that once he does so, his relationship with the House of Sainte will instantly sink below the abyss, beyond the point of no return. This was not an outcome Han Shuo wished to see at present and therefore he did not act on his thought.
“The competition has concluded. All those who ranked in the top three in either of the two categories will be rewarded. Bryan, the Chief of the Fifth Corps, takes the first place in both categories. He is given the power to apprehend any member of any family clan directly, without having to first seek for any approval. Also, the taxes levied on shops and forts owned by the House of Han is reduced by half… “ Wallace announced the prizes after getting the crowd’s attention.
However, for some reason, Andre seemed rather astonished when Wallace completed his announcement. It was as though what Wallace had just announced was different than what he knew beforehand. He stared at Wallace in a puzzled face and seemed as though he wanted to say something to him.
The three major patriarchs and the Divine Guard Chiefs, all of them raised an eyebrow. In all past competitions, the Divine Guard Chief who takes the first place will be rewarded with a piece of territory. This land was usually obtained from lesser family clans that had declined or banished, or one of the many territories owned by the House of Sainte. In this competition, however, Wallace did not award Han Shuo a single inch of soil.
Han Shuo was rewarded with a bunch of titles, such as ‘The most powerful Divine Guard Chief’, and five hundred thousand black crystal coins. The tax levied on his House of Han was also reduced by half. These rewards were the same as those given to past winners.
Given how prosperous the Celestial Pearl Pharmacy was nowadays, five hundred thousand black crystal coins wasn’t a significant amount of money. It was nowhere as valuable as a fort or a fief.
“No land is rewarded as the City of Shadows currently has no surplus fiefdom and the House of Han has received Fort Lasberg just recently. But as compensation, I will bestow another five hundred thousand black crystal coins,” explained Wallace after he noticed the crowds’ puzzlement.
For a moment, Andre wanted to say something but he hesitated. In the end, he said nothing and lowered his head.
“Thank you, Lord Wallace!” said Han Shuo as he bowed. He seemed happy and did not show the tiniest bit of dissatisfaction.
The three major patriarchs originally intended to say something. But seeing that Han Shuo had expressed thanks and accepted it gladly, they stammered for a moment and said nothing. They only lightly shook their heads as though they disagreed with Wallace’s decision.
Aobashi, Erebus, and Ralph were awarded divine weapons by Wallace. As no one from other family clans was among the top three in either category, they did not receive anything. They had expected this and none of them had any complaints about it.
The rewards were finalized. Although the crowd had their disagreements, no one made a single complaint to Wallace.
The competition for the centennial was officially over. The party performed yet another round of worshipping ceremony before Wallace finally allowed them to disperse.
The patriarchs of the three major family clans, the Divine Guard Chiefs, and other VVIPs went on their own ways. Han Shuo too returned to his Fifth Corps in a cheerful appearance.
When only Wallace and Andre were left in the area, Andre gestured with his hand and dismissed the Sainte Family divine guards in the area. After they left, Andre puzzlingly asked, “The rewards given aren’t the same as what I remember. There's supposed to be a piece of land! Elder Brother, why is there a sudden change of plan?”
Andre would never question Wallace for his decisions in front of outsiders. Instead, he waited until they were alone. Wallace and Andre were siblings and there was nothing that they wouldn’t talk about. Andre always thought that his elder brother wasn’t an illiberal man. This abrupt decision of Wallace’s was a total surprise to Andre.
“Andre, I know that you and Bryan have a great friendship going. But as the patriarch, I must always keep the interest of our Sainte Family in mind, both present and future!” Wallace looked deeply at Andre and asked in a deep voice, “Don’t you think that the House of Han is growing too rapidly?”
“Elder Brother, I know exactly what you are worrying about. However, the first-placed Chiefs had always been rewarded with a piece of land in every single one of the centennial competitions! With this sudden move of yours, everyone will know that you are worried about Bryan. And Bryan - he might look unsuspecting but he is more cunning than anyone. He knew exactly what your thoughts are. By doing so, you have achieved nothing but alerting him!” replied Andre. He thought that his elder brother had made a mistake.
“Yes, that is precisely the message I want to send to Bryan and the three patriarchs. Andre, the only reason that our Sainte Family could keep the three family clans in check is that they are intimidated by the strength of our family clan. They have been willing to submit to our rule because we are so much more powerful than any of them. But Bryan is threatening the status quo. Not only that he possessed a strength that rivals mine, but his family clan is also rapidly improving in power. We have no choice but to take precautionary measures!” Wearing a solemn face, Wallace continued, “No matter when or what happens, our House of Sainte will always be the ruler of the City of Shadows. I’m reminding those people of this fact. If Bryan is indeed loyal to us, then he should have no objection!”
Andre shook his head in disagreement and responded, “Elder Brother, I think that this time, you are wrong. With Bryan, with the House of Han, our City of Shadows will increase in overall strength. If the momentum continues, our City of Shadows will no longer be sitting near the bottom in the Darkness Dominion, but climb and rise in ranking. There might even come a day that we could compete with the City of Gorging Clouds! But if you keep on beating down all other family clans, the City of Shadows will always remain just slightly better than Hushveil City but below all other cities!“
“If things continue to develop at this trend, yes, there might come a day when the City of Shadows could compete with the City of Gorging Clouds. But at that time, the City of Shadows might belong to another family clan, not the House of Sainte!” Wallace coldly groaned and said, “I’m the patriarch of the House of Sainte and I know what I am doing. I don’t need any more of your advice on this matter!”
Andre was astounded when Wallace coerced him with his identity as the patriarch of the House of Sainte. Never before had Wallace spoke in that manner to Andre. He was at a loss for a moment, not knowing how to react to those words of Wallace’s.
When Andre finally came to his senses, he put on a smile that screamed sadness and disappointment and said, “Alright then, I won’t give you any more advice on it. I hope against hope that the decision you made is the right one.” Andre was downhearted. He turned around and started leaving with his head drooping.
“You should start keeping some distance from him. Lest you feel troubled if we had to fight him someday,” instructed Wallace in a deep voice as he looked at Andre’s back.
Andre halted. Without turning around, he answered, “Yes, I know, Patriarch,” and continued flying away.
Over at the Fifth Corps’ campsite, the divine guards had been waiting expectantly for Han Shuo. As soon as Han Shuo returned, they excitedly asked, “My Lord, what are the results?”
“You guys have held true to your promise and taken the first place, so have I!” said Han Shuo in a faint smile.
Upon hearing those words, the Fifth Corps divine guards started cheering excitedly, especially the female divine guards who had their fiery eyes firmly fixed on Han Shuo. They were so passionate that Han Shuo dared not meet their gazes for more than a split second.
“Told ya. My master defeated everyone easily. There is no doubt about this!” remarked Gilbert complacently.
Bollands who had always been emotionless revealed a faint smile - an expression very rarely seen Bollands’s face. Having worked under Erebus’ Third Corps for ages, Bollands was very familiar with the rules of the centennial competition. Out of curiosity, he asked, “Senior, which fief did we receive?”
“There’s been a slight change to the rules. We did not receive any territory but an extra five hundred thousand black crystal coins,” said Han Shuo. He still had a faint smile on his face.
Bollands was astounded. He stared blankly for a moment and said, “But… “
Han Shuo raised a palm and held back Bollands’ words. But instead of explaining, he smilingly said, “Get ready, we will return to the City.”
Bollands still wanted to say something but was stopped by Han Shuo’s gaze.
Bollands realized that there must be a reason that Han Shuo did not want to discuss it openly. Although puzzled and confused, Bollands did not ask anything but nodded. He began instructing the divine guards to get make preparations for returning to the City of Shadows.
A few of the divine guards who knew the competition rules well turned silent. Others who were oblivious to it continued cheering excitedly. Following Bollands’ instructions, they completed the necessary preparations in no time and started their return trip in a grandiose manner.
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